Aunt Linda here: In the Old Pueblo a half moon hangs overhead. Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury are rising in the eastern sky. This pre-dawn, 2nd of October sky is just one week past the autumnal equinox; today’s simple, treasure of a recipe may come in handy in the colder months around the corner.
A few weeks ago, in casual conversation, I asked our 90 year old Aunt Alice (born and raised in the Tirol) what fats her mother used to cook with. Without a pause in her response, she replied: “Lard and olive oil” Of course we had our own pigs, so we made our own lard. OH!!! My mom used to make the BEST potato recipe ….” So I spent a lovely afternoon last week learning how to make this favorite meal of hers.
Like a needle and thread connecting bits of fabric, this recipe comes to you, from the Tirol, via aunt Alice. It comes via Mother Stella, to her daughter Alice (now 90years old), to me, and now to you. What a magic needle, to pierce through the generations and find it’s way through the internet, (Stella lived a full life and died never having had one inkling of “The Internet”) all the way to your eyes. And hopefully, to your hands and kitchen. Their Tirol home, by the way, built of stone, had no heat, Alice says she would wake up to water frozen solid, inside the house, after a cold night. No wonder they needed something this nourishing, including the home rendered animal fat, to get them started.
It turns out that potatoes are more nourishing than I had known. I’ll admit they never held much interest for me. Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire uncovers many mysteries of the potato, and opened my mind a bit. His research surprised me. In addition to their carbs, potatoes supply “considerable amounts of protein and vitamins B and C”. Combined with the vitamin A in milk, they make for a “nutritionally complete” diet. According to Pollan, “the spud would eventually put an end to scurvy in Europe. If I wax on and on about the potato, you won’t have time to make the recipe, so let me tantalize you into reading The Botany of Desire! It may change your whole experience of slicing into a potato: the ancestors of the Incas, and of course their descendants, grew potatoes in microclimates from their wild potato ancestors … they grew red potatoes, pink. blue, yellow, orange, … They grew bitter potatoes, buttery and starchy ones. So here we find that needle’s thread anchored back in time and place …. how they got to the Tirol and to Tucson …. that is another story.
It turns our that lard may have, dare I say it, some health benefits. The re-freshed thinking about lard is that it contains 54% less saturated fat than butter and some other plant derived fats). It is also downright flavorful. There is so much new research on fats. I encourage you to explore it.
Before we get started, if you are not open to lard, try this with butter or olive oil …coconut or avocado oils … the photo below shows the home rendered lard (see Savor the Southwest July 3rd post). Note how pure white it is. Remember that we infused one batch of lard with chiltepin. I learned this week, that at least in the Tirol of Alice’s youth, the fat was also smoked along with other meats, to impart a smokey flavor to the lard once it was ready to render. (Smokey lard – stay tuned … we may explore that in the future)
The hands that you see in action are Aunt Alice’s, passing the needle and thread, to you.
Remember to Render!
Not all lards are equal. Home rendered lard is easy and can be made in small batches.
2 Tablespoons home rendered lard
2 medium sized potatoes of your choice
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or sage)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 fresh eggs (to cook as eggs and eat atop the rosemary potatoes)
ice for the potato slices
First, Peel the potatoes ….
Slice potatoes thinly, however you prefer. We used an old “madonlina” from Italy.
Soak the slices in ice water – this takes out some of the starches, and helps them cook without disintegrating in the pan.
Add two tablespoons of lard to the pan, and start heat on medium heat. Remember the oils you choose to eat are yours to decide. If you are anti-lard by all means use another oil. Choose what is best for your health and preferences.
Place the potatoes in a thin-ish layer, and place rosemary spring in the pan. Start on medium heat, then lower heat.
Cook slowly, on low, giving the potatoes time to soften.
Eat with a fresh fried or poached egg (or two) atop the potato medley … great for breakfast. Great for anytime.